McBee employees earn AO Smith safety award

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McBee, S.C.—Coming off a year in which they launched nine new safety initiatives, the employees of the A. O. Smith plant in McBee, S.C. were rewarded for their efforts today by earning the Lloyd B. Smith President’s Safety Award for 2015.

The award, named after a former chief executive officer of the Milwaukee-based company, is given annually to the A. O. Smith facility that achieves the best overall performance in workplace safety.  A total of 23 facilities worldwide were evaluated based on statistical measures as well as evidence of having a comprehensive, sustainable workplace safety program.

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ajita G. Rajendra presented the award to the employees at a special ceremony this morning.

“At a mature plant, such as McBee, it can be very difficult to keep a safety program from becoming stale and routine,” Rajendra observed.  “Your team, however, has done an amazing job of keeping your safety program fresh, vital, and in the forefront of everyone’s thinking at McBee.”

President of the North American Water Heating business unit Kevin Wheeler added:  “When it comes to keeping everyone safe, you can talk about equipment or processes, but what it really comes down to are people, men and women who embrace the responsibility of maintaining a safe and productive work environment.  If there’s one secret to McBee’s success, a reason why you have earned this award a record four times, it’s having great people who are committed to safety and committed to each other.”

To earn the Lloyd B. Smith President’s Safety Award, each company facility is evaluated based on three statistical categories:

Lost workday case incidence rate–This measure relates to the most serious, work-related injuries or illnesses that result in one or more lost work days;
Recordable case incidence rate–Recordable incidents are significant, work-related injuries or illnesses beyond first aid as defined by the U. S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA);
Lost workday incidence rate–This category measures a facility’s total number of lost work days and provides a measure of accident severity.
During 2015, the McBee team undertook a number of initiatives designed to further improve workplace safety in the 450-employee commercial water heater plant.  Plant leadership devoted a significant amount of time and resources in providing training and development opportunities for the 10-person Safety Team, giving the members additional responsibilities for the regular plant safety inspections and accident investigations.

Last year, the team helped revise McBee’s accident reporting process, instituting tighter time frames for reporting and investigating accidents.  Under the new process, the department supervisor, a member of the safety team, and an employee from manufacturing engineering are required to be at the site of an accident or near miss within minutes.  Initial reports must be filed within one hour of the incident and the final report within 24 hours.

The plant also launched a safety training and mentorship program for temporary employees.  Members of the safety team are assigned as mentors to each temporary employee; mentors go through a thorough safety checklist and review the proper use of personal protective equipment and machine guards.  As a result of this program, McBee experienced just one recordable incident attributed to a temporary employee in 2015.

Another high-visibility initiative was equipping each lift truck with blue spotlights on the front and rear so that people in the plant are more aware of their presence.  Every lift truck driver received additional training and a renewed lift truck certification in 2015.  Each lift truck also is equipped with an onboard computer that quizzes the driver with safety-related questions before they can operate the vehicle.

Accepting the award on behalf of all employees were the members of the McBee Safety Team:  BJ Frotten, Kim Green, Wayne Mixon, Dawn Sanders, Marc Smith, Tim Wallace, Timmy Wallace, Lori Washington, Robert Watkins, and Brent Wilkerson.

“Workplace Safety is one of our core values at A. O. Smith Corporation,” Rajendra said in presenting the award.  “We call it a ‘value’ because values are constant—unlike priorities, they never change.  It’s right up there with taking care of the customer and treating each other with respect and dignity.  For 142 years, our Values have helped make A. O. Smith what it is today, a great place to work.”

This is the fourth time the McBee plant has received the Lloyd B. Smith President’s Safety Award in the 62-year history of the program.  McBee is the only current A. O. Smith facility to have earned the recognition on four separate occasions.  McBee received the award in 1982, 1992, and 2006.

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